There was a time back when Chad Smith was Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, I joined a group of people from the tribe to evaluate a gift the City of Vinita wanted to give the tribe. It was not my first ride in a helicopter, as Tami Marler with Channel 6 News had given me her seat for the news fly over of the Tar Creek Superfund site, suggesting a barf-bag might be needed when circling it, and then again when Steve Liss rented one for his fly over, which was a great deal more windy, since he had one of the doors removed to make his photos... better for an article for TIME Magazine. But on this short flight, we looked down on some property I had walked before, when part of the land had been a "landfill" or the dump as many of us used to call it. It was an amazing place when we first moved back to Craig County in the early 70's. You could drive in and dump everything in your pickup truck and if you were like me, you could assess what others had left behind. I got a great bookshelf one time that we still use. Large equipment would cover what was brought with what I called dirt, which was actually soil, and always there were seagulls around the site because of the food brought in the trash.
The helicopter flew over the 604 acres, landed to allow us to walk the gift-able fields. The portion that had been the dump had closed years earlier was totally covered, and had been monitored for 8 years by the city. The tribe never got back with the city about the gift, so now down the road a piece is the new Vinita Lake, which I hope is a great success and seemed to be. Last summer it was a delight to see entrepreneurs parked along the road with kayaks for rent by the hour!
The United Nations values soil enough to designate a World Soil Day which was celebrated this week, but the same day we flew in that helicopter over the land north of what was Eastern State Hospital was the day the farmer plowing my wheat field put a lot of my soil airborne, 5 miles away, there it was. Soil is a terrible thing to waste and that day a whole bunch of mine became somebody else's.
I remember seeing skies turn colors when growing up in west Texas, I later realized it was cotton fields north of town that were blowing our way and when walking home from school wearing a little cotton dress my legs would sting as if they were being SANDBLASTED, and knowing now they were being soil blasted. If we were in our home when the clouds of soil were coming, the sky would darken and we had just enough time to put wet cloths in the window sills to keep the dust from blowing inside.
Healthy soil loaded with organic matter, nutrients, fungi and microorganisms takes approximately 1,000 years to develop. What I learned is soil supports biodiversity, but is itself biodiverse, hosting fully a quarter of all life on earth: a tablespoon of healthy soil has a higher number of microorganisms in it than the number of people living now.
And it is valuable since 95% of what we eat is grown in it but is not made just for us but we need to realize it is a intergenerational trust we have to use it so it provides for the generations that may follow us.
Soil is the source of all life, the incubator that gives birth to all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals that we need – not merely to survive, but to thrive.
Our life is literally based on the soil. David R. Montgomery sees firsthand that soil regeneration is the key to increasing crop production and slowing climate change.
You won't see my soil airborne again, and hopefully farmers all over the world will begin to value the soil they have for the precious resource it is and begin to nurture it with organic materials to replenish its potential. All of our futures depend on the soils beneath our feet and in our fields being productive for the future. People are going to need to be fed, just like our soils need to be fed, not poisoned with chemicals that kill those friends our soil needs to benefit us all.
Think about what we do and what we can do differently. I think about our visits to the "dump" and how it smelled. It smelled because people had thrown food scraps in with their trash and it was rotting creating methane gas. People are still generating trash, what we can do now is save the vegetable food scraps for your compost, tend it and grow this valuable resource to restore nutrients in your garden soils. Don't garden? Then save your food scraps and of course your coffee grounds for someone who does! Your trash won't smell anymore, and since you are recycling more all the time, your own carbon footprint is shrinking. What could be wrong with that?
Soil is alive and we need to treat it with respect, like our lives depend on it.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim
Rebecca Jim is the executive director of the LEAD Agency (www.leadagency.org).